Families of those on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are today dealing with their worst nightmare, after authorities all but confirmed the aircraft was lost in the southern Indian Ocean along with the 239 passengers and crew.
Chinese relatives of passengers on board the flight have led a protest outside the Malaysian embassy demanding proof the plane plunged into the sea.
A multi-national search effort is continuing however, in the hope of finding some clues as to exactly where and how a regular flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing could go so terribly wrong.
Gale force winds and heavy swells disrupted search and recovery efforts yesterday.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says the visual search will resume with weather conditions expected to improve.
Twelve aircraft, seven military and the rest civilian will take to the skies over the search zone.
In announcing the bad news, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said new satellite analysis of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370′s path placed its last position in remote waters off Australia’s west coast, and far from any landing sites.
“It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean,” Najib said.
He said the flag carrier had already spoken to the families of the passengers and crew aboard the jet which disappeared on March 8 on an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The airline, in a statement sent to families, said “we have to assume” the plane was lost.
“Our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time,” it said.
“We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain.”
Relatives protest in China
Angry relatives defied China’s ban on protests to demonstrate outside the Malaysian embassy in China demanding proof the flight had plunged into the sea.
One man told ABC news: “We want them to give us the truth. There is no evidence to say anything.”
The protestors wore T-shirts and carried signs that read: “Give us back our loved ones!”
The relatives have demanded more information from Malaysian officials. They issued a statement claiming the officials had “concealed, delayed, and hid the truth”.
“If the 154 of our loved ones lose their lives, then Malaysia Airlines, the government of Malaysia and the military are really the executioners of our loved ones,” it stated.
The Malaysian ambassador met with the families but was unable to offer any information, while Malaysia Airlines announced it would offer financial assistance of $5000 per family member with more compensation being prepared.
Satellite ‘pings’ used to determine MH370 crash zone
Space engineers compared the satellite handshake “pings” from missing jet MH370 with other tracked commercial flights to determine it had crashed into the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Prime Minister Najib said analysis “never before used in an investigation of this sort” had shown the Malaysian airliner had crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.
That analysis was done by mobile communications company Inmarsat, which provides satellite data for Malaysia Airlines.
Even though the plane’s transponder and ACARS system were turned off, the company’s box on the Boeing 777 – equivalent to a mobile phone handset – stayed on and was polled every hour by Inmarsat’s satellite.
Families react with grief, tears
In the lobby of a hotel outside Kuala Lumpur where relatives, including many flown in from China by Malaysia Airlines, had gathered, an elderly woman sat down hard on the floor and wept.
“He died too young, I want my son back,” she cried out in Mandarin.
We dearly love and will miss our mum and dad
Stretcher-bearing paramedics attended to family members devastated by the news.
Cries of deep pain rang out as relatives burst forth, sobbing uncontrollably, while the news left others appearing disoriented, with one man lying on the floor holding his head.
One Chinese relative said: “We know we have no hope left now.”
Two-thirds of passengers were from China.
There was also controversy with some relatives informed by SMS, leading to claims of insensitivity.
Malaysia Airlines is reported to be offering families US$5000 as an initial compensation.
Meanwhile in Australia, the son of an Australian couple who were aboard said memories of his parents’ love will help his family deal with the tragedy.
Jayden Burrows read a family statement in Brisbane on Tuesday after Malaysian officials announced all 239 on board flight MH370, including his parents Rod and Mary Burrows, were believed dead in the southern Indian Ocean.
“We dearly love and will miss our mum and dad,” he told reporters.
“The love and compassion that they shared and their priority of putting their family first will help us get through this together.
“We’re heartbroken this stage of their life has been cut short.
Ongoing search effort
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says the search in the southern Indian Ocean will resume Wednesday, with the operation now focused on search and recovery.
A visual search is to resume on Wednesday when better weather is expected after gales and heavy swells forced a halt on Tuesday.
“As many as twelve aircraft are expected to be involved in the search tomorrow, including seven military aircraft and five civil aircraft,” an AMSA statement read.
“HMAS Success will return to the search area and conduct a surface sweep of an area identified on Monday afternoon by a Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orion as the location for several objects of interest.”
In total some six countries are aiding the search – Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, China and South Korea while India has offered to join the operation.
Chinese polar supply ship Xue Long (Snow Dragon) and three other Chinese ships are expected to arrive in the search area on Wednesday.
Defence Minister David Johnston says until debris is recovered and positively identified as being from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, any information about the search for the missing plane is speculation.
Australia to welcome grieving relatives
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the families of those lost in the flight will be welcomed to Australia if they wish to visit and their visa fees will be waived.
“I understand that the loved ones of those on that plane may well wish to come to Australia in the coming days and weeks,” Mr Abbott said.
“They will find a welcoming country that is more than willing to embrace them in this very difficult time.”
Mr Abbott spoke to the Malaysian prime minister on Tuesday morning to offer Australia’s continuing support and cooperation.
He said the search mission has now become one of recovery and investigation.With AAP